Bordering the Graham Beck property, "Madeba", on the outskirts of Robertson, lies the Graham Beck Private Nature Reserve, an area that extends to the eastern slopes of the Rooiberg.
The reserve was set aside in the 1990s shortly after the late Graham Beck purchased the farm, in the hope of reversing the devastating effects of 200 years of over-utilisation of the natural resources.
The property is situated in the heart of the Succulent Karoo Ecosystem in the Breede River Valley, an area extremely rich in plant and geological diversity. Of the 1500 species of vegetation in the area, 115 are endemic and, of these, 77 percent are succulents. Only 2.4 percent of the region is formally conserved.
Graham Beck Wines was one of the earliest pioneers in the initiative to conserve the biodiversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom. The winery was appointed the second BWI (Biodiversity and Wine Initiative) Champion and is currently still one of around just 28 wineries in South Africa that can lay claim to this celebrated status.
The man who makes things happen in the veld is Mossie Basson, formerly of the Department of Conservation, and is Graham Beck Wines’ conservation manager. He and his dedicated team embarked on an extensive conservation management plan and successfully launched numerous groundbreaking projects such as alien vegetation clearing, stabilising eroded areas and re-establishing indigenous plants.
By May 2006, 1885 hectares of land had been registered with Cape Nature as a voluntary conservation site and in September 2006, Mossie and his team confirmed that the Riverine Rabbit, a critically endangered species once thought extinct, was residing in the Breede Sand Fynbos section (the most endangered veld type on the site) of the Graham Beck Nature Reserve.
In July 2007, 27 neighbouring landholders pledged to join the conservation effort. The Rooiberg Breede River Conservancy was born, and remains a strong focus of the efforts, comprising no fewer than 13 500 hectare of natural vegetation. For every one hectare of land utilised for producing wine or stud horse farming on the Graham Beck Estate at Robertson, 4.5 hectares of land are today conserved.
With this in mind and inspired by the words of world-renowned British broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough who said, "People are not going to care about animal conservation unless they think that animals are worthwhile", the team at Graham Beck decided to create The Game Reserve range of wines. Released earlier this month, Graham Beck is said to be the only wine brand in the world associated with a private nature reserve that can demonstrate measurable actions taken to conserve the natural environment.
The Game Reserve concept is all about creating an environmentally responsible wine range for people who enjoy drinking fine wines and who care about sustainability for generations to come.
The wines are made at the Graham Beck cellar by their award winning cellarmaster, Erika Obermeyer, who has created nine different wines within the range, where each label depicts an animal or plant prevalent to the region and nature reserve on the property.
"Just as in wine our fragile ecosystem is wholly dependent on balance, harmony, continuity and longevity," Erika says.
"It truly is the case of 'the sum of the parts' when it comes to farming sustainably and responsibly. When we practise environmentally responsible viticulture and winemaking, we not only ensure the quality of our product, we guarantee the future of our planet as well."
The Game Reserve range is all cultivar specific with four white wines, a rosé and four red wines and labelled as follows:
Chenin Blanc – The Riverine Rabbit
Sauvignon Blanc – The Fish Eagle
Chardonnay – The Cape Eagle Owl
Viognier – The Honey Badger
Rosé – Esterhuysenia grahambeckii (a plant unique to the reserve)
Pinotage – The Bat Eared Fox
Merlot – The Cape Clawless Otter
Shiraz – The Eland
Cabernet Sauvignon – The Cape Leopard